When the fur trade first began, First Nations and Inuit people brought the furs to the trading posts. They would arrive by canoe. The furs would be unloaded and traded for goods such as muskets (A type of gun used hundreds of years ago), axes, knives, blankets, whisky and pots. It was not long before some of the men at the trading posts decided they would go inland and get the fur themselves. These were the people known as the coureurs de bois ([French for 'runner of the woods'] a fur trader who went into the woods to find fur and trade fur with First Nations).
The coureurs de bois learned the ways of the woods from the First Nations. They were taught how to canoe, hunt and snowshoe. Canoes were made out of birch bark the way the Natives taught them. They dressed in the same kinds of clothes and ate the same food as the First Nation peoples.
A typical meal consisted of pemmican (Dried and powdered meat, usually buffalo, which has been mixed with an equal amount of animal fat. Sometimes berries or other items were added. Pemmican was stored and carried in leather bags and was the perfect food for fur traders to carry on long voyages because it did not spoil. Developed by the Chipewyans, Peter Pond introduced it to HBC in 1779 using deer meat and dried corn and peas).
The silver birch tree was the most important resource for life in the woods. It was used to build and repair canoes on the journey. Shelters were built with the branches and the bark. The bark was also good for drawing maps on and for writing messages. The bark could even be eaten if there was no other food!
The coureurs de...